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Ancient Greek mythology, religion and art
The Arcadian, goat-footed Pan (Greek, Πᾶν), was the pastoral god of nature, wild places, moutains, woods, shepherds, goatherds, flocks, hunting and rustic music. He was identified with spring, fertility and the generative power of life, and thus also with sex.
His terrible, angry shout caused those who heard it to be seized by great fear and uncontrollable behaviour; the origin of the word panic. He is said to have used this power to help defeat the mythological attack of the Titans on Mount Olympus and the Persian invasion of Attica at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC.
According to various myths, Pan's father was either Hermes
or Zeus, and his mother a nymph, either Dryope or Penelope of Mantineia in Arcadia. In later versions of myths, the nymph Penelope became identified with the wife of Odysseus. None of the older accounts of his parentage appear to explain his appearance as half-man, half-goat. All ancient Greek sources agree that his original home was in Arcadia in the Peloponnese. 
"Pan, the dear son of Hermes, with his goat's feet
and two horns - a lover of merry noise."
The Homeric Hymn 19, to Pan.
His name may derive either from the Greek paein (πάειν, to pasture) or pan (πάν, all), although other theories have suggested a pre-Greek, Indo-European origin.
He was certainly a primitive god and remained so as the biographies and back-stories other Olympian gods were developed and their personalities made more elevated and sophisticated. While other deities associated with agriculture, hunting and rural settings, such as Dionysus, Demeter
and Artemis, were taken into Greek cities and worshipped at ever-grander temples, Pan continued to be seen as belonging to the wild, untamed countryside, and his sanctuaries were more humble, often in caves or among rocks (see a rock-cut shrine in Thasos
Pan's rough, semi-bestial appearance and character has led some to believe that he and the other daemons and spirits of nature were much older than other gods, perhaps introduced later into Greek religion. Pan, like Silenus, had a role as a tutor to other deities: he is said to have taught Apollo prophecy and introduced Artemis to hunting and given her hunting dogs. On the other hand, this appears at odds with the complicated mythical genealogies which made him a relatively junior member of the Olympian family.
Although described by Pindar as "Lord of Arcadia", he was a minor god in the pan-Hellenic scheme, and was not among the Twelve Great Gods who lived on Olympus. More probably, the Greeks, and later the Romans, continued to need deities who ruled over particular aspects of life and parts of their world - the cities, the tamed and untamed lands, as well as rivers and the sea - and these retained attributes which seemed appropriate to their realms.
He was often worshipped together with Nymphs, female deities associated with water, vegetation and fertility, in the open air, at springs, rivers, in woods, on mountains and in caves. The cult of the Nymphs was also connected with Hermes, Apollo, Dionysus and local river gods such as Acheloos and Baphyras
(at Dion, Macedonia, below Mount Olympus).
At Athens there were several important sanctuaries of Pan and the nymphs, including those on the north and south slopes of the Acropolis, at the foot of the Hill of the Pnyx, near the River Ilissos, at Eleusis and in mountain caves of Parnes, Penteli and Hymettos (Vari). See Athens Acropolis gallery page 4
In Greek and Roman art Pan is depicted as half-man, half-goat. Goat's horns grow back and close together from the centre of his head, about half way between the forehead and crown. His hair and beard are thick, long and wild, his eyes are widely spaced, his nose often long and flat, and his lips full.
His legs, covered with thick, shaggy hair, end with the cloven hooves of a goat, and he has a goat's tail. He is shown as being shorter than other gods, but taller than mortals, perhaps indicating his relative status. He is usually naked, often with an erect penis, though sometimes wearing or carrying an animal skin cloak.
He holds or plays his pan pipes (syrinx) made of hollow reeds of various lengths bound together. He also carries a lagobolon (λᾰγωβόλον; Latin, pedum), a short hunting stick, curved like a walking stick at one end, used for throwing at hares 
. Presumably, if thrown correctly it could stun or even kill a small animal. The curved end would have also made it useful as a shepherd's crook.
Pan is often shown with nymphs, particularly in works from shrines of Pan and the Nymphs in which his father Hermes
also sometimes features. Where the shrines were underground and in caves they were associated with the underworld and death, and Hermes here fufills his role as Hermes Psychopompos (Guide of Souls).
Pan became increasingly assimilated into the myths and cult of Dionysus
following the introduction of his shrines in Athens from 490 BC 
. In numerous artworks he is shown as one of the companions of Dionysus, part his retinue known as the thiasos. Always shown as smaller than and apparently subserviant to Dionysus, he dances with satyrs and silens as the wine god cavorts drunkenly during one of his adventures (see photos on the Dionysus page
of the People section).
|References to Pan|
on My Favourite Planet
|The cave of Pan above the Klepsydra spring, on the north slope of the Athens Acropolis. With photos and articles about Pan's arrival in Athens, and other sanctuaries for the god in and around the city:
Athens Acropolis gallery page 4
A marble relief of Pan dancing.
From a relief of a procession of Dionysus
and Ariadne. From Rome, 110-130 AD.
See photos of the relief
on the Dionysus page
of the People section.
Altes Museum, Berlin. Inv. No. Sk 850.
Marble head of Pan.
Made in Athens around 440-430 BC.
Said to be from Koropi.
British Museum, London.
Inv. No. GR 1931.6-15.1.
Head of a statue of Pan.
Unknown provenance. 2nd
half of the 4th century BC.
Thasos Archaeological Museum.
See more sculptures from Thasos
depicting Pan below.
Head of Pan on a gold coin of Panticapaeum (Παντικάπαιον, Pantikapaion; today Kerch)
on the east coast of the Crimea, as a pun
on the city's name. Circa 320 BC.
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.
Inv. No. HCR5267.
See more coins from
Lucian, The Double Indictment (or Trials by Jury; Greek, Δὶς κατηγορούμενος; Latin, Bis Accusatus sive Tribunalia).
In the 5th century BC Herodotus
recounted the tale of the Athenian runner Pheidippides meeting Pan at Mount Parthenion in the Peloponnese. The goat-footed god complained that the Athenians had been neglecting him. After they duly dedicated a shrine to him in a cave on the north slope of the Acropolis, he came to their assistance against the Persian invasion at Marathon in 490 BC (see Athens Acropolis gallery page 4).
Around 600 years later, the Roman author Lucian of Samosata (Λουκιανός ὁ Σαμοσατεύς, circa 125-180 AD) humorously portrayed Pan as a tax-paying naturalized foreigner (metic) in Athens, complaining that the Athenians do not pay him the respect he feels he is entitled to, and criticizing philosophers.
(Justice and Hermes
are conversing in the porch of the Academy, Athens.)
Justice: Before you go, Hermes, tell me who this is coming along; a man with horns and a pipe and shaggy legs.
Hermes: Why, you must know Pan, most festive of all Dionysus's followers? He used to live on Mount Parthenius: but at the time of the Persian expedition under Datis, when the barbarians landed at Marathon, he volunteered in the Athenian service; and ever since then he has had the cave yonder at the foot of the Acropolis, a little past the Pelasgicum, and pays his taxes like any other naturalized foreigner. Seeing us so near at hand, I suppose he is coming up to make his compliments.
Pan: Hail, Justice and Hermes!
Justice: Hail, Pan, chief of Satyrs in dance and song, and most gallant of Athens' soldiers!
Pan: But what brings you here, Hermes?
Hermes: Justice will explain; I must be off to the Acropolis on my errand.
Justice: Zeus has sent me down, Pan, to preside in the law court. And how do you like Athens?
Pan: Well, the fact is, I am a good deal disappointed: they do not treat me with the consideration to which I am entitled, after repelling that tremendous barbarian invasion. All they do is to come up to my cave two or three times a year with a particularly high-scented goat, and sacrifice him: I am permitted to look on whilst they enjoy the feast, and am complimented with a perfunctory dance. However, there is some joking and merrymaking on the occasion, and that I find rather fun.
Justice: And, Pan, have they become more virtuous under the hands of the philosophers?
Pan: Philosophers? Oh! people with beards just like mine; sepulchral beings, who are always getting together and jabbering?
Justice: Those are they.
Pan: I can't understand a word they say; their philosophy is too much for me. I am mountain-bred; smart city-language is not in my line; sophists and philosophers are not known in Arcadia. I am a good hand at flute or pipe; I can mind goats, I can dance, I can fight at a pinch, and that is all. But I hear them all day long, bawling out a string of hard words about virtue, and nature, and ideas, and things incorporeal. They are good enough friends when the argument begins, but their voices mount higher and higher as they go on, and end in a scream; they get more and more excited, and all try to speak at once; they grow red in the face, their necks swell, and their veins stand out, for all the world like a flute-player on a high note. The argument is turned upside down, they forget what they are trying to prove, and finally go off abusing one another and brushing the sweat from their brows; victory rests with him who can show the boldest front and the loudest voice, and hold his ground the longest. The people, especially those who have nothing better to do, adore them, and stand spellbound under their confident bawlings. For all that I could see, they were no better than humbugs, and I was none too pleased at their copying my beard. If there were any use in their noise, if the talking did any good to the public, I should not have a word to say against them: but, to tell you the plain unvarnished truth, I have more than once looked out from my peep-hole yonder and seen them -
Justice: Hush, Pan. Was not that Hermes making the proclamation?
The works of Lucian of Samosata Volume III (of four). Translated by H. W. Fowler and F. G. Fowler. Oxford University Press, 1905. At Project Gutenberg.
Marble statuette of Pan sitting cross-legged
on a rock covered by an animal pelt.
Pentelic Marble. 2nd century BC, probably
a copy of a 4th century BC work.
Found in the Olympieion, Athens.
National Archaeological Museum, Athens.
Inv. No. 683.
Marble statuette of Pan sitting cross-legged
on a rock covered by an animal pelt.
120-140 AD. Found in the South Stoa
of the Forum of Ancient Corinth.
Corinth Archaeological Museum.
Inv. No. S 2385.
Small terracotta figurine of Pan holding
his syrinx (pan pipes).
Made in Sicily around 410 BC.
Excavated by G. Dennis at Gela, Sicily.
GR 1863.7-28.281 (Terracotta 1169).
Small terracotta figurine of Pan playing
his syrinx, sitting with crossed goat's feet
on a rock. He wears an animal-skin cloak.
Found in Amphipolis, Macedonia.
Amphipolis Archaeological Museum.
An unusual terracotta figurine of Pan
with his arms raised above his head.
Excavated in the area of the
Thesmophorion of Pella,
Macedonia. 4th - 2nd century BC.
Pella Archaeological Museum.
A terracotta incense burner with figures
of a satyr and Pan golding a syrinx.
Excavated in Pella, Macedonia.
Pella Archaeological Museum.
Terracotta incense burner in the form of a bust of Pan playing a syrinx.
From the Sanctuary of the Mother of Gods, Lefkopetra,
Imathia, Macedonia. 3rd - 2nd century BC.
Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum.
Bronze figurine of Pan with a goat's head,
raising his right hand to shade his eyes
as he looks far across the countryside.
From the sanctuary of Artemis Hemera at
Lousoi (Λουσοί), Arcadia, south of the modern
town of Kalavryta (ancient Kynaitha), Achaia,
Greece. Around 440-400 BC. Height 9.4 cm.
The site of Lousoi on the south side of
Mount Lykaion, mentioned by Pausanias
(Description of Greece, 8.18.7), was discovered
in 1897 by archeologists Wilhelm Dörpfeld
and Adolf Wilhelm. The latter excavated the
Artemis sanctuary with Wolfgang Reichel
1898-1899 for the Austrian Archaeological
Institute at Athens. It is apparently not known
how this and other finds ended up in Berlin.
Antikensammlung, Berlin State Museums (SMB).
Inv. No. Misc. 8642,1. Acquired in 1898.
Marble statuette of Pan playing his syrinx
and holding a lagobolon in his left hand.
Originally part of a statue group.
Roman, Early 3rd century AD. From Tirnovo
(Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria). Height 67.5 cm.
Istanbul Archaeological Museum.
Inv. No. 26 T. Cat. Mendel 593.
Torso of a statuette of Pan from Thasos.
From the Passage of the Theoroi, Thasos.
Late 3rd - early 2nd century BC.
Thasos Archaeological Museum.
Altar with an ithyphallic relief of Pan from Thasos.
Found in the ancient city of Thasos, Greece. 1st - 2nd century AD.
Thasos Archaeological Museum.
|Pan, bearded and naked, is shown with long, upright horns an erect penis. He is standing in front of, or perhaps sitting on a goat and holding it by its horns with his right hand. In his left hand he holds a hefty-looking lagobolon, a hunting stick for throwing at hares. A cloak, perhaps of animal skin, hangs from his left forearm. Now badly worn, when first carved, and presumably painted, this relief must have been an impressive work.
The rock-cut shrine of Pan on the acropolis of Thasos.
Dated on stylistic grounds to the 4th century BC.
|The remains of a very low relief on the shrine are now almost impossible to make out.
A semicircular cavity, hewn in the sloped rockface, contains the relief in the form of a temple pediment, within which Pan rests on a rock, playing his syrinx in a rural setting, flanked on either side by three standing goats. On the pediment's roof two goats face each other on either side of a kantharos (drinking cup) on the apex. Vine branches above the pediment and offering tables with vine vessels at each end of the cavity indicate Pan's close association with Dionysus.
"It is not proper for herdsmen to play the syrinx at midday.
I fear Pan who is now resting after the tiring hunt."
Theocritus, Idylls, I, 15-18. 3rd century BC.
The small figure of Pan playing his
syrinx on the Thasos shrine relief.
A nanny-goat and her kid in a field on the edge of Thasos town.
|Marble statue of Pan.
Parian marble. 1st century AD copy of a 4th century BC original.
Found in Sparta, Peloponnese, Greece.
Smiling Pan wears an animal skin cloak and holds his pan pipes (syrinx)
in his left hand. His goat's legs and feet have been restored.
National Archaeological Museum, Athens. Inv. No. 252.
|Marble table support in the form of a pillar, with a depiction of Pan.
Pentelic marble. 2nd century AD copy of a 4th century BC original.
Found in Piraeus, Attica, Greece.
Similar to the statue above, with Pan wearing an animal skin
as a cape and holding his syrinx in his left hand.
National Archaeological Museum, Athens. Inv. No. 251.
Part of another marble statue of this type, without its head, was
found by Edward Daniel Clarke (1769-1822) near the Cave of Pan
on the north slope of the Athenian Acropolis, and is now in the
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, Inv. No. GR.4.1865. 
Another is in the Sikyon Archaeological Museum, west of Corinth.
|Two symmetric marble statues of Pan, known as the "Della Valle Satyrs".
The statue on the right is perhaps an original of the late Hellenistic period.
That on the left may be a Roman period copy, perhaps 2nd century AD.
Left, Luna marble. Height 283 cm. Right, Greek marble. Height 279 cm.
Courtyard, Palazzo Nuovo, Capitoline Museums, Rome. Inv. Nos. MC 4 and MC 16.
From the Della Valle Collection, then the Albani Collection.
|The statues, which may have been telamons (architectural supports, like caryatids), were discovered in the 1490s in the area of the Theatre of Pompey, in the Campus Martius, Rome. The square at the location where they are thought to have been discovered became known as the "Piazza dei Satiri".
They were first part of the collection of Cardinal Andrea della Valle (1463-1534), hence the name "Della Valle Satyrs". During the 16th century were displayed among several other ancient sculptures in the courtyard of Palazzo Della Valle, where they were drawn and copied by a number of artists. Originally without lower arms, they were restored by Giovanne da Udina (1487–1564) to decorate a pilaster in the garden of the palazzo. In 1513 they were temporarily employed as decoration for a triumphal arch in the Via Papale to celebrate the accession of Pope Leo X.
Later they were in the collection of Cardinal Alessandro Albani for a short period before being moved to the Capitoline Museum in 1734. They now stand in niches in the Cortile (Courtyard), on either side of the Marforio fountain (from the Martis Forum), which features a colossal 2nd century AD statue of a river god restored to represent the god Okeanos (Inv. No. MC 1).
Both statues show Pan standing naked apart from a nebris (panther skin, see Dionysus) around one shoulder and upper torso. In one hand he holds a bunch of grapes, and with the other supports a basket of grapes which rests on his head.
Although the figures mirror each other, there are several differences, particularly the heads and treatment of the surfaces. It is thought that at least one of the figures was reworked. Recent research indicates that they were decorative rather than supportive, and it is now doubted that they were part of the sculptural decoration of the Theatre of Pompey. It has been suggested that they stood at the Temple of Bacchus.
Inscribed marble votive relief dedicated to the nymphs, mid 4th century BC.
Found in the Cave of the Nymphs, Mount Penteli, Attica.
National Archaeological Museum, Athens. Inv. No. 4465.
The separate cylindrical base of the relief, Inv. No. 4465a.
|The scene is set in a naiskos (small temple). On the left are three nymphs, Hermes and Pan, standing in a row, facing right. The latter holds his pipes (syrinx), a lagobolon and a hare. The inscription below the relief states that it was dedicated by Telephanes, Nikeratos and Demophilos, who are depicted at a smaller scale, standing on the right and facing the deities.
See similar votive reliefs of Hermes, Pan and the nymphs on the Hermes page.
Marble votive relief dedicated to the nymphs, about 330 BC.
Found in the Cave of the Nymphs, Mount Penteli, Attica.
National Archaeological Museum, Athens. Inv. No. 4466.
|The scene is similar to the relief above (Inv. No. 4465), except that it is set in a cave. The figures, from left to right: three nymphs; Hermes wearing a chlamys and holding his caduceus; Pan holding his pan pipes; a nude youth pours wine into the kantharos held by Agathemeros, the dedicator of the relief. Such reliefs set in caves were made from the late 5th to the 1st century BC.
The identity of Agathemeros is known by the separate base of the relief, Inv. No. 4466a.
Marble Votive relief depicting Pan with the three Horai (Seasons) in a cave.
Pentelic marble. 330-320 BC. From Sparta (Laconia) or Megalopolis (Arcadia).
National Archaeological Museum, Athens. Inv. No. NM 1449.
|The Horai (singular, Ὧρα, Hora; plural, Ὧραι, Horai, portion of time, hour, season) were the personifications of the three seasons of ancient Greece who were later seen as goddesses of order and natural justice. They presided over the movements of the heavenly constellations by which the year and agricultural activity were measured, and guarded the gates of Olympus.
Here the Seasons are shown dancing to the music of the syrinx played by ithyphallic Pan, who crouches on a rock. They wear long chitons and himatia, the two rear figures holding onto a corner of the garment of the one before her. The seasons from left to right: Spring carries ears of corn in her left hand (harvest), Summer has bare arms, and Winter has drawn her himation around her arm and torso.
They were given different names in various traditions, but most common are two trios, either:
Thallo (Θαλλώ, bringer of blossoms), Auxo (Αὐξώ, increaser, as in plant growth) and Carpo (Καρπώ, food bringer);
or Eunomia (good order, good pasture), Eirene (peace) and Dike (justice).
The right side and left corner of the relief have been restored with plaster.
Height 55 cm, width 73 cm.
Photo © Konstanze Gundudis
Marble votive relief in the shape of a cave depicting Pan playing the syrinx
(Pan pipes), followed by nymphs dancing around an altar. At the top of the
cave are goats, and on the bottom left is the head of the river god Acheloos.
Late 4th century BC. Found at Eleusis, Attica.
National Archaeological Museum, Athens. Inv. No. 1445.
An inscribed marble votive relief depicting a nymph and a herm of Pan.
Around 100-80 BC. From Tralleis (Aydin, Turkey).
According to the inscription, the relief was dedicated to the nymph and Pan
in gratitude for a miraculous healing. The crouching, naked nymph reaches
for a water vessel. Above her a votive plaque hangs from a tree.
Altes Museum, Berlin. Inv. No. Sk 1554.
Ceramic censer (incense burner) in the form of a bust,
described by the museum as a satyr.
Hellenistic period. From Lefkopetra, Macedonia, Greece.
Veria Archaeological Museum. Inv. No. Π 8610.
Head of Pan as an antefix (end of a roof tile). From Taranto, Italy. Around 350 BC.
British Museum. GR 1884.3-22.3 (Terracotta 1364). Donated by J. R. Anderson.
|A gold stater (left) and a drachm (at the same scale) of Panticapaeum
(Παντικάπαιον, Pantikapaion; today Kerch) on the east coast of the
Crimea, with the head of Pan as a pun on the city's name. 4th century BC.
The coins show Pan as an older man with wild, dishelleved hair
and beard. On the stater he wears a diadem with ivy leaves.
Numismatic Collection, Bode Museum, Berlin.
|Staters (at the same scale) of Kyzikos (Κύζικος), Mysia
(Erdek, Turkey), with heads of Pan. Circa 400-330 BC.
As in the stater from Panticapaeum above, the coin on the left shows Pan as
a mature, bearded man. Below the head is tuna fish, the symbol of Kyzikos. On
the right he appears as a clean-shaven young man with short hair and a diadem.
Numismatic Collection, Bode Museum, Berlin.
Head of Pan on a silver tetradrachm of Antigonus II Gonatas (Ἀντίγονος B΄ Γονατᾶς,
circa 319-239 BC) king of Macedon, of the Antigonid dynasty, son of Demetrios
Poliorketes. Minted during the second period of his reign, 272-239 BC.
Diameter 31.3 mm, weight 16.92 grams.
Civic Archaeological Museum, Milan. Inv. No. Brera, n. 1184.
|The horned head of Pan, facing left, wearing a goat skin, with a lagobolon over his shoulder, in the centre of a Macedonian shield, decorated with seven eight-pointed stars within double crescents.
The other side of the coin in the museum can not be seen, but according to the labelling the inscription reads ANTIΓONOY BAΣIΛEYΣ. Between each of the words stands armed Athena Alkidemos (Ἀθῆνη Ἀλκίδημος, defender of the people, demos), the patron goddess of Pella, Macedonia, in a fighting pose similar to Athena Promachos. She is viewed from behind, advancing to the left, brandishing a thunderbolt in her raised right hand, and holding a shield decorated with the aegis on her left arm. There is a crested Macedonian helmet in inner left field. The figure is often referred to by numismatists as Athena Promachos or Athena Alkis.
Several coins of this type have survived, and are thought to have been minted at Amphipolis, Macedonia. Usually the inscription reads BAΣIΛEΩΣ ANTIΓONOY.
A bust of Pan with his lagobolon on a mosaic panel.
Hellenistic. From Panormos, Mysia (Bandirma,
northwestern Turkey). Height 73 cm, width 62 cm,
Istanbul Archaeological Museum. Inv. No. 1608.
Dancing Pan with his lagobolon and animal skin cloak.
Detail from a Roman Period floor mosaic from Ephesus depicting
the myth of Dionysus discovering the sleeping Ariadne on Naxos.
Izmir Archaeological Museum, Turkey.
More information about this mosaic on Selçuk gallery 2.
Mosaic panel with a bust of Pan.
Reign of Antinonus Pius (138-161 AD). Found in a Roman villa in Genazzano.
Part of a large highly-detailed floor mosaic with a complex illusionistic geometric pattern,
which contained seven roundels with images, only two of which have survived. The other
roundel shows a satyr, and the central panel may have featured a bust of Dionysus.
National Museum of Rome, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme.
Small mosaic panel with Pan and the nymph Pitys or a Hamadryad (tree nymph).
Supposedly from Pompeii, although it has been
suggested that it is a modern forgery. 25 x 27 cm.
National Archaeological Museum, Naples. Inv. No. 27708
(The museum label incorrectly states 227708). From the Farnese Collection.
|Pan lusted after the nymph Pitys (Πίτυς, pine) and chased her, until Boreas (Βορέας), the god of the north wind, transformed her into a pine tree to protect her. The Hamadryads (Ἁμαδρυάδες) were dryads (a type of nymph) who lived in trees. The excited god appears either surprised to find that his quarry has escaped him, or delighted to discover such a voluptuous tree.
So far I have found no scholarly discussion concerning the authenticity or otherwise of this mosaic, or of its history. It is known to have been in the collection of the Duke Carafa of Noja (the Noja Collection) in Naples, then passed into the Farnese Collection, much of which now forms the inventory of the Naples Museum. It was displayed for many years in the Gabinetto segreto (Secret Cabinet), the museum's small department of "obscene" ancient objects, and was mentioned briefly and without comment in some guide books .
The mosaic has since been considered safe enough, at least in terms of its imagery – evidently no longer seen as "obscene" or "pornographic" by today's standards – to be moved from the dark corner of the Cabinet into the main rooms of the museum. It is now exhibited among the ancient mosaics excavated at Pompeii (including the "Alexander Mosaic"), Herculaneum and other sites in Campania, the provenance of which is certain. Its museum label merely states: "Pan ed Amadriade. Collezione Farnese". However, the information board at the entrance to the Gabinetto segreto, presumably written when the mosaic was still there, hints that the work may not be kosher when describing the Cabinet's history:
"Statues, items of jewellery, oil lamps and miniature paintings adorned with erotic subjects were prized by aristocratic collectors; they were a source of artistic inspiration, fake reproductions (mosaic with Pan and nymph: inv. 27708), literary erudition – clarifying ancient authors' allusions to sensuality – or simply prurient curiosity."
A 16th century book illustration by Giulio Bonasone (see below), appears to provide evidence that the mosaic is a modern (i.e. after the mid 15th century) fake or reproduction. The image is from Achille Bocchi's Symbolicarum quaestionum de Universo genere quas serio ludebat, published in Bologna in 1574. Many of the illustrations in the book feature figures evidently copied from the recently discovered ancient works of art that decorated the houses of aristocrats and top clergymen in Italy from the early Renassaince, notably sculptures of Minerva (Athena) and Hercules (Herakles). The last illustration in the volume, number 150, shows a scene almost identical to the mosaic. There are several differences, including the twisting of the bottom of the nymph/tree, the appearance of a blowing Boreas in the top right corner and the background landscape with a fortified settlement. These may be additions of Bonasone's imagination. If the mosaic is a "reproduction", what did it reproduce? Is the illustration a copy of the mosaic or some other (unknown) work, or was the mosaic a forgery copied from this print or a similar (contemporary) drawing?
A small part of the long buried and forgotten ancient city of Pompeii was uncovered by chance during the construction of a water channel from the river Sarno in 1599, twenty five years after the the publication of the book. At the time, it was not realized that this was the location of Pompeii, the finds there did not excite much interest and excavations only began in 1748, following the rich discoveries at Herculaneum. However, it is known that "graverobbers" had been active in the area some time before, and several ancient artefacts had found their way on to the art market.
One wonders if the work has been studied or analyzed in recent years. Mosaics are difficult to date since they are made of inorganic materials and the techniques and tools used by mosaic makers have not changed significantly since antiquity. There still may be clues to be found from the materials used for the tesserae or how they were worked and cut, or the composition of the cement. The evidence provided by the image itself, its composition, Pan's disproportionately large hands, the "modern" looking female form and the clumsy meander border, may be more difficult to evaluate, as many genuine ancient mosaics were (and still are) badly restored, sometimes resulting in the complete destruction of the nature of the original image.
If the work is a fake, should it remain among the ancient mosaics without some kind of notice? And if there is a chance that it may be ancient, why has it not been subjected to a scholarly examination?
Pan and Hamadryad or Pitys in a 16th century book
illustration by Giulio Bonasone (circa 1498-1580).
Source: Achille Bocchi (1488–1562), Symbolicarum quaestionum
de Universo genere quas serio ludebat, Book 5, plate 150, page 354.
Società Tipografica bolognese, Bologna, 1574. At the Internet Archive.
Part of a floor mosaic showing Pan carrying the infant Dionysus on his shoulders.
In situ on the site of a peristyle courtyard of the the Byzantine Great Palace
(Palatium Magnum), of Constantinople. Late 6th or early 7th century AD.
The fragmentary section of the enormous 170-180 square metre floor mosaic is
thought to be part of a depicton of Dionysus' triumphal procession from India,
known from several other ancient artworks (see the Dionysus page). Unusually,
Dionysus is shown as a small child, holding on to the horns of Pan, who carries
a lagobolon in his left hand, and perhaps a syrinx in the right. Part of an elephant
ridden by a man is shown following Pan.
Great Palace Mosaic Museum, Istanbul.
Part of a floor mosaic showing a centaur and Pan with his syrinx.
From Jerusalem. Late 5th - early 6th century AD.
Detail of the central panel from a large floor mosaic depicting Orpheus.
The mosaic artist is thought to have used the image of Orpheus and
other figures and elements from earlier pagan iconography to convey
Christian concepts such as the "immortality of the spirit".
Istanbul Archaeological Museum. Inv. No. 1642 T. Cat. Mendel 1306.
|Relief of Pan on the left side of the "Little Arch of Galerius" in Thessaloniki.
Imperial workshop, Thessaloniki, circa 308-311 AD. See below.
Pan dances while playing his syrinx. In his left hand he holds his lagobolon. His left foot appears
to be raising the lid of a basket (standing on a low base or altar) from which a snake is emerging.
Pan with the snake in the basket motif appears on several depictions of Pan, usually in assocation
with Dionysian scenes. See, for example, a relief of a Triumph of Dionysus from Rome.
Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum.
The front of the "Little Arch of Galerius" (Μικρό τόξο Γαλερίου).
Found in 1957, south of the Octagon, central Thessaloniki.
The arch is known as the "Little Arch of Galerius" to disinguish it from the larger
triumphal Arch of Galerius which stands on the Odos Egnatia, central Thessaloniki.
Sculpted from a single marble block, it was part of a small temple of the palace of
Emperor Galerius. The decorative reliefs include medals with portraits of Galerius
and his wife Augusta Galeria Valeria, supported by figures of eastern subjects
(perhaps Persians). Between the medals two winged erotes (cupids) hold a
garland. On the right side is a nymph, and on the intrados (inside of the arch)
a medal with a head of Dionysus.
Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum. Inv. no. ΜΘ2466.
|Marble statue of a pensive-looking Pan.
Medium-grained white Greek marble. Early Roman Imperial period copy of a Hellenistic
Classicistic original. Found in 1902 in the remains of a large residence in the Via Tasso, Rome.
Statues of this type usually show Pan holding a syrinx in the left hand and a lagobolon in the right.
Palazzo Massimo alle Terme. National Museum of Rome. Inv. No. 52389.
Pan and a maenad at erotic play. Detail of a large marble krater with reliefs of Bacchic scenes.
Pentelic marble. Found in 1872 in the Horti Vettiani, Rome.
Palazzo dei Conservatori, Capitoline Museums, Rome. Inv. No. MC 1202.
|Marble statue group of Aphrodite, Eros and Pan. Right, a close-up of Pan from the group.
Parian marble. Circa 100 BC. Height, including base: 1.55 metres.
Found in 1904 in the "House of the Poseidoniastai of Beryttos"
(a guild of worshippers of the god Poseidon from Beirut), Delos, Greece.
The inscription on the base is a dedication by Dionysos of Beryttos to his ancestoral gods:
"Dionysos, son of Zenon who was son Theodoros, from Beryttos dedicated [this offering]
to the ancestral gods for his own benefit and that of his children."
The nude Aphrodite fends off the erotic advances of the goat-footed Pan, and threatens
him with her sandal. A tiny winged Eros tries to assist the goddess by holding onto Pan's
right horn. All three figures appear to be smiling, and the tone of the work is playful.
Pan's face has been given remarkable goat-like features. His lagobolon rests against
the tree stump which also supports his left leg.
National Archaeological Museum, Athens. Inv. No. 3335.
|Heavily restored marble statue group of Pan and Daphnis.
Roman period copy of a Hellenistic original by Heliodoros of Rhodes
(active around 100 BC). Coarse-grained crystalline marble.
An erotic scene of Pan teaching the young shepherd Daphnis
to play the syrinx. Probably designed to decorate a garden.
Both heads and Daphnis' right arm are restorations.
Palazzo Altemps, National Museum of Rome. Inv. No. 8571.
Boncompagni Ludovisi Collection, from the Cesi Collection.
The bottom of a terracotta relief bowl Pan groping a nymph as she
sits on a rock playing a lyre. To the right, a herm stands on a rock.
From Egypt, probably 1st century BC.
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg. Inv. No. 1941.2.
A Roman fresco in Rome labelled "Fresco with Pan and Maenad".
Painted plaster, 193-211 AD.
Antiquarium Communale, Capitoline Museums, Rome.
|One of several frescos, depicting domestic, rustic and mildly erotic scenes, found in private houses near the Via Nationale in Rome. In this painting a nude male figure wearing a garlanded helmet uncovers a sleeping woman. He does not appear to have horns, and the legs and feet are so crudely drawn that it is difficult to tell whether they are human or goat. The only other indication that he may be the rustic deity is the lagobolon (a crook and hunting stick for throwing at hares) he carries. Otherwise this could well be Dionysus/Bacchus or Pan discovering Ariadne on Naxos.
If this is Pan, then perhaps the artist was wittily putting the male viewer in Dionysus' shoes. The alluring subject of the naked sleeping maenad or sleeping Hermaphroditus, viewed from behind, was common during Roman times, and such statues were placed in the men's section of public baths.
Fresco with Pan and Hermaphroditus.
From the atrium of the Casa dei Dioscuri, Pompeii (VI, 9, 6). 1-50 AD.
National Archaeological Museum, Naples. Inv. No. 27700. Secret Cabinet.
|Although several Roman artworks show Hermaphroditus defending herself from erotic advances of satyrs, here the tables have been turned. It appears that the goat-footed god Pan, shown in other scenes sexually drawn to Aphrodite and even goats (see below), is here trying to escape from Hermaphroditus' grasp. The signal he sends with his turned head and raised right hand says it all.
Erotic marble relief of Pan, riding an ithyphallic mule, approaching a hillside shrine.
From Pompeii. Roman copy of a late Hellenistic original.
National Archaeological Museum, Naples. Inv. No. 27712. Secret Cabinet.
Marble statue group of Pan copulating with a goat.
From the Villa of the Papyri, Herculaneum.
1st century BC - 1st century AD. Height 44.2 cm, width 47.5 cm.
National Archaeological Museum, Naples. Inv. No. 27709. Secret Cabinet.
Marble bust of Pan in the form of the top of a herm.
From Contrada Verdura-Fusillo (Ribera), Sicily. Roman period.
Agrigento Regional Archaeological Museum, Sicily.
Fragment of a ceramic lamp from Pompeii with the head of Pan.
National Archaeological Museum, Naples.
Relief of a head of Pan on the corner of a sarcophagus.
Roman Imperial period, 2nd century AD.
The large marble sarcophgaus is decorated all around with reliefs of
garlands supported by Erotes (figures of Eros), Gorgoneions (heads
of the Gorgon Medusa), and a head of Pan at each corner.
See photos of the sarcophagus on the Gorgon Medusa page.
In the courtyard of the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. Inv. No. 513.
A fragment of a marble pseudo-sarcophagus with a relief of Pan driving a wagon
drawn by donkeys, among satyrs and maenads in a Dionysian procession.
Circa 150 AD. Height (not including modern base) 37 cm, width 92 cm, depth 7.5 cm.
Antikensammlung, Berlin State Museums (SMB). Inv. No. Sk 851.
Purchased in Rome in 1846 by Eduard Gerhard von Vescovali.
|Considered one of the finest and most detailed reliefs of a Dionysian procession. The festive group moves from right to left on their way to a sacrificial rite for Dionysus. Typically, the scene is full of energy and movement, almost chaotic, with all the participants in an ecstatic and/or inebriated state.
Pan, grinning wildly towards the viewer, drives a four-wheeled wagon in the shape of a ship, with lion heads on the wheel hubs. The two donkeys, depicted at a smaller scale to the other figures, appear to be collapsing under the strain of pulling the wagon. Pan bends forward to goad one of them with a thyrsos, while a naked young satyr in front of the wagon places his right hand beneath the head of the other, and with his left hand pushes the head of a satyr carrying a calf on his back.
In the wagon are two maenads, each wearing a short chiton, a nebris and wreath of vine or ivy, with a colossal mask of Silenus and two kantharoi (wine jugs). Behind them a silen holds high a bowl of fruit, and a maenad, also in chiton and nebris, carries a basket on her head. On the left of the frieze, a young satyr carries a large krater on his shoulder, another carries a goat and a maenad holds up a bowl. It is thought that the missing right side of the relief depicted Dionysus sitting in a chariot pulled by centaurs.
See further information about Dionysian processions on the Dionysus page.
||Notes, references and links
1. A good read for Pan fans:
Philippe Borgeaud, The cult of Pan in ancient Greece. Translated by Kathleen Atlass and James Redfield. The University of Chicago Press, 1988.
2. lagobolon, a hunter's stick for striking hares. Ancient Greek, λᾰγωβόλον, from λαγώς (lagos, hare) and βάλλω (ballo, to throw).
3. Pan assimilated into the Dionysian cult
See, for example:
Silvia Porres Caballero, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, La dionisización del dios Pan (The dionization of the god Pan), Synthesis, Vol. 19, pages 63-82. CEH, UNLP, La Plata, 2012.
Read also the account by Herodotus of how Pan's cult was introduced to Athens from 490 BC, after the Battle of Marathon: The Klepsydra on Athens Acropolis gallery page 4.
4. Statue of Pan in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
Marble headless statue of Pan, found by Edward Daniel Clarke (1769-1822) at the Cave of Pan, on the north slope of the Athens Acropolis.
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. Inv. No. GR.4.1865.
Early Roman period, 1st - 2nd century AD.
Height 86 cm, width 33 cm, depth 27 c m. Approx. weight 166 kg.
Donated to the museum by Edward Daniel Clarke in 1865.
Edward Daniel Clarke, Greek marbles brought from the shores of the Euxine, Archipelago, and Mediterranean and deposited in the vestibule of the public library of the University of Cambridge, pages 9-10, number XI. Cambridge University Press, 1809. At the Internet Archive.
5. The Pan mosaic in the Naples Museum
See: Domenico Monaco, Complete handbook to the National Museum in Naples, "Reserved Cabinet (Oggetti osceni)", page 62. English edition, edited by Eustace Neville-Rolfe. Naples, 1905. At the Internet Archive.
|Photos on this page were taken during
visits to the following museums:
Berlin, Altes Museum
Berlin, Bode Museum
Berlin, Pergamon Museum
Hamburg, Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe
Amphipolis Archaeological Museum, Macedonia
Athens, National Archaeological Museum
Corinth Archaeological Museum
Pella Archaeological Museum, Macedonia
Thasos Archaeological Museum, Macedonia
Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum, Macedonia
Veria Archaeological Museum, Macedonia
Milan, Civic Archaeological Museum
Naples, National Archaeological Museum
Rome, Capitoline Museums, Palazzo dei Conservatori
Rome, Capitoline Museums, Palazzo Nuovo
Rome, National Museum of Rome, Palazzo Altemps
Rome, National Museum of Rome, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme
Italy - Sicily
Agrigento Regional Archaeological Museum
Istanbul Archaeological Museum
Istanbul, Great Palace Mosaic Museum
Izmir Archaeological Museum
London, British Museum
Oxford, Ashmolean Museum
Many thanks to the staff of these museums.
Round terracotta plaque with a relief of the head
of Pan as a water spout of a fountain in the
gardens of Sanssouci, Potsdam, Germany.
|Photos and articles © David John|
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